swh marking its territory

“For men like you?” Maybe in the wild and wacky Netherlands, it’s every man’s dream to water the White House lawn. But the theme of this Dutch ad, according to its creators at Amsterdam agency SWH, is just as appropriate in the U.S. in these crazy times: “Pissing contest: Even presidents aren’t too mature for FHM.”

That selling proposition is “all about male fun.” And no doubt in some strange way, the Gore and Bush camps, with their legions of attorneys, have been indulging in that in recent weeks—albeit at the country’s expense.

SWH, known for its attention-grabbing use of celebrity (it once stalked Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson, seeking a voiceover), proposed the ad a little over a week ago to the publishers of FHM (For Him Magazine), which has just been launched in the Netherlands. The very next day, De Telegraaf, the nation’s largest newspaper, was carrying it (in Dutch). The editor of the paper quickly ended the campaign’s run, but not before it had caused a stir. Other newspapers carried it as well.

A postscript for those who enjoy deciphering the semiotics of advertising imagery: Given the political leanings of the Dutch, once could easily read a strong partisanship into the angle of the candidates’ pitches.